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African Art

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Artwork Details


Kongo Artist, Yombe Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola


nineteenth century


Wood, feathers, cloth, paint, and metal

Accession #



17 3/4 × 9 1/2 × 5 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 401


The figure seated at the center of this royal scepter is painted white to show that its authority derives from ancestral and spiritual realms. The stroke of earth-red paint on its torso symbolizes life’s vital force. The feathers that surround the figure at the center of this scepter indicate that it is an nkisi, a medicine of God, concerned with “things of the above.” With a hand raised to its mouth, the figure bites munkwisa, a tenacious plant used in the investiture of Kongo political leaders. Munkwisa leaves are associated with an ability to endure.


Purchase with funds from the Fred and Rita Richman Special Initiatives Endowment Fund for African Art

Image Copyright

Photo by Peter Harholdt